How Tube strikes have increased under Boris

He promised a “no-strike deal” but Tube strikes have risen since Johnson become mayor.

News that Tube drivers are threatening to walk out on the day of the royal wedding offers a good opportunity to examine the fate of Boris Johnson's long-promised "no-strike deal".

In his 2008 manifesto, the Mayor of London pledged:

I will look to reduce the disruption caused by strikes on the Tube by negotiating a no-strike deal, in good faith, with the Tube unions. In return for agreeing not to strike, the unions will get the security provided by having the pay negotiations conducted by an independent arbiter, whose final decision will be binding on both parties. I believe this is the fairest way to ensure that London is not brought to a stand-still every time there is a pay negotiation, and to ensure union members get a secure deal.

But since then, as the graphic below shows, Tube strikes have reached a level never seen under Ken Livingstone. Not that this should surprise anyone. There is little evidence that Boris has made any serious attempt to negotiate a no-strike deal with the trade unions. Asked in September if he had sat down with union leaders and had his "promised beer" with Bob Crow, the mayor replied: "I have not spoken directly with union leaders but with plenty of people in government."


In a memorable 2008 election leaflet, Johnson complained that "there have been 16 Tube strikes since Ken Livingstone became mayor, two for every year". But since Boris became mayor, there have been no fewer than 20, nearly seven for every year (the next scheduled strike is on Friday).

The grim conclusion is that Boris's "no-strike deal" was a shallow election pledge that he never had any intention of living up to in power.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Something is missing from the UK’s draft transition agreement with the EU

The talks could go to extra time.

The European Union has published its draft transition agreement with the United Kingdom, setting out the terms of the standstill period after March 2019, when the UK will have formally left the EU, but its new relationship with the bloc has not yet been negotiated.

There is a lot in there, and the particularly politically-difficult part as far as the government is concerned is fishing: under the agreement, the United Kingdom will remain subject to the Common Fisheries Policy during the period of transition, and two Scottish Conservative MPs, both of whom have large fishing communitiesin their seats, are threatening to vote against the deal as it stands.

But the more interesting part is what isn’t in there: any mechanism to extend the transition should the United Kingdom and the EU be unable to agree a new relationship by 2020. This is something that people on both sides believe is likely to be needed – but as it stands, there is no provision to do so.

The political problem for Theresa May is that some pro-Brexit MPs fear that transition will never end (which is why she persists in calling it an “implementation period” in public, despite the fact it is as clear as day that there will be nothing to be implemented, as the future relationship will only have been agreed in broad outline). So finding the right moment to include the ability to make transition open-ended is tricky.

The danger for the government (and everyone else) is that the moment never arrives, and that the United Kingdom either ends up making a agreement in haste, or not at all, in 2020.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.